Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Snake That Eats Itself : GW2

This is going to be one of those posts that rambles on about how there's so much going on in the MMO world no-one can possibly have the time to get around to it all so how can anyone say the genre's in the dumper, I mean, honestly, you guys! Well, maybe not exactly one of those but you have been warned.

I am a really bad witness for this sort of thing and not just for MMOs either. I've been told (by another grumpy fiftysomething) that I'm extremely atypical for my age because I think modern music is every bit as good as the stuff I grew up with and because I think the writing in young adult novels in the 21st century doesn't just stand up to anything I was reading when I was "that age" but gives most contemporary adult fiction more than a run for its money and basically because I think doors are opening not closing most of the time.

It's odd. I would never have painted my own portrait with my glass half full. I'd have thought I was no-one's vision of an optimist. It was only about fifteen years ago that I finally stopped describing myself as a nihilist (I must post the free verse nihilist manifesto I wrote when I was seventeen or so sometime - it's only six pages of A4 and it has tigers).

I'm still not sure that tearing everything down and starting over's such a bad idea. It's more that I'm getting too old to relish the inconvenience the way I once would have done. Still, somehow I seem to have ended up on the kittens and rainbows bench and I never saw that coming. I guess the culture has just moved past me when it comes to cynicism and black despair.

So, if you ask me when  the Golden Age of MMOs was I might as easily say "tomorrow" as anything else. And today's looking pretty golden too.

I'm sitting here freestyling this, listening to the blandly-named but rather chunky Rah Rah, one of the flurry of Canadian, Indonesian or Korean indie bands the wonderful world of YouTube has opened for me these last few days, as I eagerly anticipate the arrival of GW2's fourth episode of Living Story 3, "The Head of the Snake".

There's something about Canadian indie that seems almost unbearably sweet. I love all the home-made videos set in the woods or in small towns that don't look quite of this world. It reminds me of Northern Exposure and yes I know that was Alaska, even if most of it was filmed in Washington State. It's all Northern, innit?

Where was I? Oh yes, GW2. So, apparently Divinity's Reach is next in line for the Lion's Arch treatment. Is there any MMO developer so blase about trashing its own best work as ArenaNet? They do seem to take a positive joy in self-destruction.

We'll know in a few hours whether those siege engines are really going to wreck one of the most perfectly-realized cities in MMOdom. My money's on not. Either way, that video got my pulse racing, which was, I guess, the intention.

 I was also sufficiently motivated by the news that the promised housing update for The Elder Scrolls Online has gone live to go ferreting among my loose hard drives looking for where I had the thing installed. I had three hard drives in my old PC but when I replaced it last spring I took them all out and stacked them by the bookcase.

Seems ESO isn't on any of them. Nor is it on either of my two USB portable drives. Nor my 64GB USB stick that I use to take the MMOs on holiday that I never play. I have no idea where it is. It must be somewhere because I almost never uninstall MMOs. I just buy more drives. I still have two full installations of Landmark. I think I even have Zentia somewhere "just in case"...

If I can't find it, and it looks as though I can't, then I suppose I'll have to download the entire thing again. It's not something I want to do because MMOs these days are huge. Also, as I was discussing in the comments over at Going Commando, I might want to download SW:tOR sooner rather than later and I bet that thing has a footprint like a yeti.

SW:tOR is one of a short list of MMOs I don't particularly want to play but feel I probably should just for completeness sake. Aion's another. And EVE of course. It's always easy to keep shoving them to the back of the list because I don't actually want to play any of them, I just think I probably should. Space settings don't appeal to me much and there was something about Aion that just put me off right at the start. I think it was the colors. Or maybe the name.

EVE going F2P means I really don't have much of an excuse not to try it eventually but equally it means there's no urgency. SW:tOR is arguably a more urgent case since BioWare, these days one of my less-loved developers although I can't really put a finger on what they might have done to offend me, upped the ante with a two-month xp blitz and not any old double xp either but a 250% ramp.

Paradoxically, as someone who professes to prefer low levels and slow leveling, I'm a real sucker for accelerated xp. It pushes all my bargain-hunter buttons, makes me feel I'm getting something for nothing, even though what I'm likely getting is rushed through content I'd enjoy more if I took it slower. Oh well, a rational consumer I'm not.

For an MMO I don't especially want to play anyway, though, I guess it does make some kind of backwards sense. If I don't like it it would be over faster and if I do I can stop and come back later when the foot comes off the pedal.

Let's be realistic here. I don't have time for ESO or SW:tOR. I added Legion to my WoW account three months ago and any window of free time that opens up between now and the next GW2 expansion (where IS that, anyway??) is penciled in for Azeroth.

I'm about finished up on the last EQ2 expansion at least as far as my Berserker goes. The main story's all done and he's nicely geared for solo. Next comes the gear grind to upgrade everything, the spell grind, the faction grind, all that good stuff that keeps people subbed 'til next time. I can skip that.

There's a level 100 Inquisitor and Necromancer to take through the story though. I might chip away at them over the coming months. And there will be a new "Race to..." server soon, I'm sure. Always something going on in Norrath. No urgency right now though.

The Revelation Online beta got extended by a week but I've not played any more. I like it but not enough to whittle away on characters that won't be around in a month or two. I'll get back to it when the launch comes, which can't be long. Then forget it in a matter of weeks and never play again.

So fickle. But there's just so much to choose from and so much of it's so interesting.

Here's a little list of the MMOs I want to be playing enough to think about them but not enough to, y'know, log in:

Dragon Nest Oracle
Black Desert
Blade & Soul

And those are just the one I have installed on my main drive.

I patched up Rift yesterday. Been a while. And going to be a while longer, I fear. After a 3Gb download I logged in to find my character in freefall between the above-the-sky and below-the-world on an infinite loop. Nothing would stop it, not even the /stuck command. I even joined an Instant Adventure, as recommended for stuck players in the in-game tips, and was able to complete quests and gain xp all from an entirely different zone while still falling. Trion: leading developers of the idle MMO.

Dragomon Hunter also eludes me since I lost my log-in and password. It's from Aeria Games who also publish Twin Saga, which I have downloaded but have yet to try because I wanted to use the same details. I guess I should make a new I.D. and start both from scratch but I'm not sure I want to play either of them that much.

Anyhooo... that killed an hour while I wait for the GW2 content patch to drop. Not that we're content-starved in Tyria you understand. (Where's that frickin' second xpack???).

If I ever actually get any of these games updated and get around to playing them I'll maybe have something to say about it. Meanwhile, have another from Rah Rah. No, thank you - for getting this far.


  1. This is not the place I expected to find someone who shares my interest in Canadian indie bands (even if I'm not previously acquainted with the specific ones linked).

    I'm eternally surprised you don't spend more time on ESO. It seems to me like exactly your sort of game. It mostly plays like a more sedately paced version of GW2, which seems like it should be right up your alley, and with One Tamriel it's even more of an explorer's paradise than ever before.

    I wouldn't get too excited about Homestead, though. The housing is insanely overpriced, regardless of whether you're using real world or in-game currency. It seems to be pretty geared towards serious endgamers rather than the general gaming populace, despite being a purely fluff feature with no practical benefit.

    I do not think you'd enjoy SW:TOR. It's probably the worst MMO I've played for an explorer type and is about as on-rails and linear as you can possibly get. If you do try it, I recommend an Imperial class (ideally agent or warrior), as they tend to have the best stories.

    Aion might pleasantly surprise you, though. I always thought it was one of the better traditional MMOs out there. The combat's as good as tab target gets, and the lore is surprisingly unique and interesting. Roll an Asmodae. Elios are too vanilla.

    1. You'd be amazed what I listen to. I amaze myself half the time.

      The combat in ESO pretty much defeated me. I found it the least palatable of its kind that I've tried. I also have never warmed to the Elder Scrolls world, whose lore I find impenetrable. I agree it looks fantastic and absolutely invites exploration - it's just that while I was there nothing I explored ever turned out to be anything very interesting. Compared to Black Desert's world, or even ArcheAge's, it seemed to be very short of surprises.

      That said, I do want to go back and have another look now the one Tamriel thing is in effect. I really only saw a very small part of the available world in my few weeks there. Just a question of when I can be bothered to download it and whether doing that brings our internet connection to its knees like Revelation Online did...in which case I'll have to pick my moment when Mrs Bhagpuss isn't home and I also have things to do away from the keyboard.

      I'll move Aion up a notch on that recommendation too, although the same caveats on downloading apply - I imagine that one's a huge download by now - it's quite a few years old now.

    2. As someone who scores high as an explorer and has been playing SWTOR as her main MMO for more than five years, I feel I have to come to its defense here... it's a great game for certain kinds of explorers. Not so much in terms of uncovering maps, that I agree with. But the way the different storylines are interwoven and small choices change characters' reactions makes for a near-unending trove of interesting surprises as you create more and more alts.

      That said, I'm dubious whether it would be Bhagpuss' cup of tea either. Though I wouldn't think the space setting would be much of an issue... after all the Force is basically magic and Jedi are wizards. ;)

    3. There are definitely different flavors of "Explorer". All the puzzle-solvers get lumped in with the trail-breakers and they don't really have that much in common. Me, I'm really more of a sightseer or a tourist. Kind of like Twoflower in "The Colour of Magic" or maybe the traditional 1970s Japanese tourist stereotype Pratchett based him on in the first place...

      I also have a problem with the entire structure of "A/B/C" multiple choice replies that forms the basis of every BioWare game. I am almost pathologically incapable of choosing any answer that sounds impolite. It really disturbs me if I do - I've tried it and I don't enjoy it at all. I also strongly dislike getting on the wrong side of anyone. I don't find it to be any kind of fun to have a falling-out with a companion in a video game.

      That means I try to keep everyone happy all the time which is usually literally impossible in a BioWare game. That in turn means that rather than risk doing anything that might alienate anyone in my party I get bogged down doing whatever has the least impact on team spirit. Eventually I either come to a complete halt and give up or manage to get a team that can stand each other but usually is inefficient and awkward because it lacks crucial skills.

      Every time I read people talking about how they got on the wrong side of some companion or other in SW:tOR it makes me glad I wasn't the one having to make those choices. That said, I haven't really investigated how avoidable that is.

      As for the space setting, the problem there is that I'm a life-long SF fan and as such I find it really hard to take any video game version of the genre seriously. They generally seem to draw from exactly the kind of military SF I rarely read rather than the kind of social commentary strand that stretches from Philip K Dick to Becky Chambers. That's why I had high hopes for Otherland - hopes that were sadly dashed by the game itself.

      I do love good Space Opera though so EVE would probably work. I feel I'm probably already getting the best of that side of the game from reading TAGN though. I'm not sure actually playing it would add anything!

    4. Shintar has a point about there being different types of explorers. Interestingly, whenever I take the Bartle test or anything similar, I always test as an explorer (and by a huge margin -- the other categories aren't even close), but I'm usually not all that enamoured with the idea of simply uncovering the map for its own sake, and in general I never seem to have much in common with self-identified explorers.

      ESO's combat does take some getting used to. I think it's a bit like TSW in that it can sometimes take a lot of tweaking to find a build that works for you, but with slower progression exacerbating the problem.

      As for finding interesting things... depends on what you're looking for. I'm a crafter, so finding resource nodes is always exciting, and even a simple rack of swords can be a thrilling find. There's also a lot of treasure chests, if you keep your eyes peeled. It doesn't necessarily have the same fantastasism or visual grandeur of some other games, though. Stonefalls, Malabal Tor, Deshaan, and Shadowfen are good places to check out if you want some more exotic scenery. Personally I love the autumn colours in the Rift. With One Tamriel you could spend a few hours at least just visiting all the zones and taking screenshots.

      Regarding your companion woes, SW:TOR may actually be a better experience for you. There's very little interaction between companions, and it's not terribly difficult to stay in everyone's good books if that's what you want to do. I find those things a negative, but for you they might be a positive.

    5. Yeah, the "companions with conflicting opinions" thing only really matters in the most recent expansion, where you have the lot of them sitting in a base and arguing. :P In the base game the small group of companions you have is confined to your ship except for one you pick to go on missions with you, so if you don't like any particular one, you can just leave them alone and not take them anywhere.

  2. I always figured you'd be at least somewhat into Aion. It's one of those MMOs that's new enough to feel semi-modernized, Asian enough to have auto-run and lots of mobs, but old enough to have semi-interesting loot drops when you kill those mobs.

    Also, hm. Posting as my Livejournal no longer seems to work ANYwhere on the net. Ah well, so much for that era.

    1. This has been a very informative comment thread all round. It looks as though the only real issue mitigating against my trying both Aion and SW:tOR is finding the time (although if ANet don't get their act together soon over Head of the Snake I guess I could try one today). Aion also sounds like something Mrs Bhagpuss might be interested in which would be a bonus.

  3. I gave up on SWTOR a few years ago. I have always wanted to go back and pick an alt to level up again and to experience the full story. Lack of time and a lot of negative articles about every new change has kept me away. But really, for the price of one month, it's a good deal. Think it's almost time to download all of the new patches.

    I have had ESO and Neverwinter on my list of games to try for awhile. I really liked Skyrim so ESO has always seemed interesting. Neverwinter is on there only because I love Forgotten Realm books. After this thread, I think Aion is added on games to try.

    1. I'm downloading Aion as I write. I visited the website and it looks considerably more appealing than I remembered so what with that and the recommendations here I thought I might as well take a look while I wait for ANet to dig themselves out of their snowdrift. Shame it only has human characters. I think that was probably what led to me not paying it much attention back when it launched.

  4. I feel like I "should" try SWTOR again, and Star Trek Online, and Black Desert. But the rich adventures of Wow, Rift, LOTRO, Elder Scrolls Online, EQ2 and a great deal of immersive time in the Galaxies emu leave no time for those, or GW2. Despite reports of the demise of the MMO, these are for me the very best of times to be playing them.

    1. 100% agree. I do want new MMOs to get made because new is always exciting but seriously, there are enough already to take up most peoples' available time for years if not decades! STO is another I keep meaning to go back to as well. Not going to happen, I fear.

  5. The Imperial Agent story in SW:TOR was fantastic. Some of the others are all right (Bounty Hunter, Jedi Knight). Only palatable if you were playing during the 12x story mission experience event, in my opinion. Otherwise, once you've done 10 levels, you've done them all. If you're not subbed, you're persona non grata. Grrrr.

    Speaking of Alaska - all right, you mentioned the word "Alaska" - Alaska by Maggie Rogers. Not Canadian Indie, but drips with rural outdoorsiness and is the reason art exists.

    Well, you've probably already listened to it. Carry on!

    1. Oh, great tip, the Maggie Rogers tune. Right up my street - well, one of them! Pretty sure I have watched her on YouTube before but not that particular song.

      Thanks! Also for the steer on which profession to try should I ever get around to SW:tOR. I'll be referring back to this comment thread if/when that ever happens.


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